Oracle turns up grid computing volume

Oracle aims to pick up the tempo on its grid computing beat this week by unveiling the latest version of its flagship database, an iteration the company believes is primed to enable grids for thousands of low-cost nodes.

Using its annual conference as a pulpit for promoting its grid vision, the company will announce the Oracle10g database and 10g application server this week at OracleWorld in San Francisco.

In addition to unveiling its own 10g-related tools and systems management software, the company will enlist the aid of allies such as Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard to demonstrate how 10g will form what company officials hope will be the foundation of the datacenter of the future.

Oracle believes that by adding self-management capabilities to its software it will enable grids of hundreds of thousands of low-cost nodes such as Linux-Intel systems, said Richard Sarwal, Oracle vice president of data-server applied technology.

"Self-management for each component is really an enabler for the grid," Sarwal said. "Our position continues to be that you should be able to stitch together low-cost, modular componentry into a grid."

Sun is also working to spread low-cost grid solutions into new commercial markets. The company will announce that Oracle’s 10g products will work with its Solaris OS on both Intel- and Sparc-based servers and with Linux on Intel.

"We want to aggressively move into the low-cost grid-computing arena with Oracle, and the best way we think to do that is by broadening choice among the platforms. We can really pound that message home by showing that 10g can actually run on a broad range of platforms," said Alan DeClerck, senior director of the Oracle business unit at Sun Microsystems.

Oracle and Sun executives believe that the complementary nature of 10g’s automated management capabilities and the cross-platform capabilities of Sun’s N1 Utility Computing initiative will give them a real-world lead on common enemy, IBM.

"If you think of 10g as being about automating resources and workloads; dynamically reconfiguring Oracle products; and providing a much more dynamic database stack that can better scale and have finer control across nodes, you can better respond to different workloads. Think of 10g as the N1 for the Oracle product set," DeClerck said.

Some analysts see the Oracle10g announcement as an image makeover. They feel the new grid-based strategy will help the database and applications supplier establish a convincing presence as a more versatile provider of complete enterprise solutions.

"I think (10g) helps them turn the corner from being a database company to a true enterprise-class datacenter company that can supply you with infrastructure. This also will help them in going after Microsoft by offering lower-cost, easier-to-administer solutions that should have more reliability," said Dana Gardner, senior analyst at The Yankee Group.

Gardner said the announcement is a manifestation of Oracle’s redefinition of the grid, one that focuses on distributing infrastructure resources across a sea of low-cost hardware to contain management capabilities and reduce dependency on "an army of administrators."

In addition to bolstering its own fortunes among corporate accounts, Oracle’s grid-based 10g strategy may serve as a tide that will help other ships rise in the market as well.

"Everyone is trying to crack the nut of getting grids into the commercial markets. Grids grew up in the technical markets, and we know those (markets) well. But Oracle coming in and getting the support of major partners is a big step," said Nick van der Zweep, director of utility computing for the enterprise systems group at Hewlett-Packard.

Management software is yet another important piece that should hasten corporate acceptance of grids. Oracle will announce this week an extension to its Oracle Enterprise Manager tools. The extension, which company officials describe as a grid control, will enable the Oracle database, application server, and the company’s Collaboration Suite to participate fully in a grid.

HP will do its part at the conference in moving grid computing forward by announcing plans to integrate the Globus Toolkit and Open Grid Services Architecture across the breadth of the company’s consumer and commercial product lines. The move is aimed at simplifying the use and management of distributed IT infrastructure resources.

The company will also announce the availability of enterprise-level consulting with HP Services for grid-based platforms. The services will provide management, deployment, and life-cycle support for grid architectures. HP also hopes to add flexibility to its ongoing Adaptive Enterprise strategy by weaving in the company's grid-enabled products and services.

Sun and Topspin Communications, an Infiniband technology maker, plan to demonstrate an Infiniband-based Oracle10g clustering solution using a SunFire V65x server cluster with Sun StorEdge 3510 Fibre Channel storage arrays and Topspin’s Switched Computing System.

"We believe we will be the first to demonstrate and announce at this show support for a high-speed interconnect solution that combines low-cost servers with 10g and with RAC (Real Application Clustering) and with Topspin. It will be the first Infiniband-based database server cluster that leverages 10g. The importance of this announcement is our strategic commitment to low-cost servers," van der Zweep said.

"(10g) has built-in native support for Infiniband as a high-performance, low-latency interconnect for deploying database clusters," said Stu Aaron, vice president of marketing at Topspin, who said he was briefed on Oracle’s 10g database plans.

Meanwhile, Dell Chairman Michael Dell will throw his support behind Oracle’s grid strategy during his OracleWorld keynote address, which will discuss the datacenter of the future. Dell is expected to say that 10g will add capabilities to Dell technology such as dynamic resource allocation and improved workload balancing, according to a Dell representative.

Oracle officials declined to reveal the ships date for its 10g products.

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